Get Smart - The Dune HD Smart Series Media Streamers Reviewed

Written by Paul Moons on . Posted in Video

Dune HD Smart SeriesLast time we put a HDi Dune media streamer through the DigitalReviews process we ended up giving away a coveted Editor's Choice Award. And so it is with great expectations that we take a look at HDi Dune's new Smart Series lineup: The Dune HD Smart D1, Smart B1, Smart H1 and the BE and HE Smart extension units.

Read on for our review.

The Smart series is a completely new take on the Media Streamer segment with its modular component nature. The series is made up of three head units (B1, H1 and D1) and three extension units (BE, HE and ME). While the three Smart head units are all fully functional media streamers, their physical differences provide a particular added functionality.

- The Smart B1 has an integrated BluRay drive.
- The Smart H1 has an integrated hot swappable HDD tray.
- The Smart D1 has a digital display along with space for an internally fitted HDD.

This allows the user to choose the specific Smart head unit that best matches their particular needs.

Similarly, the extension units allow users to easily upgrade their head unit's capabilities to their exacting needs.

- The BE extends the head unit with an external Bluray drive.
- The HE extends the head unit with an external hot swappable hard drive.
- The ME extends the head unit by providing space for two Dune expansion boards (not reviewed).

The extension units have been specifically designed to connect to the head units and provide a seamless experience when connected. Having all six units match in dimension, design and experience, makes the Smart series look great and promise much.

First Impressions
The biggest gripe we had with the BD Prime 3.0 was its overall look and feel. Specifically, we didn't agree with some of the outward design choices: The "rather large (and very blue)" Bluray logo and the "obtrusive" product labelling on the front face, for example.

As soon as we pulled out one of the new Smart units we were almost lost for words. We then pulled out another. And another. Not only have Dune toned down the labelling, but workmanship, look and feel on these new units was simply phenomenal.

smart_series_02.jpgAs the images have already given away, the Smart series is without doubt the most elegant media streamers we have ever seen. Period.

From the neatly listed logos on the top right of each unit to the now /unobtrusive/ grey product labelling, the units look great. The brushed aluminium front faces are top notch and the metal cases have that "hi-fi unit component" look to them. The plastic power and eject buttons match suitably as do the Bluray/Hard Disk Trays. The Bluray logo is still loud, but on the otherwise understated B1 and BE units, we like it.

Incidentally, with the exception of their main feature (Bluray drive; hot swappable HDD tray and LCD screen respectively), the B1, H1 and D1 all have identical front faces (from left to right): Power button, LED, Infra-red receiver window, SD Card slot, USB port and Eject button.

dune_all_04.jpgLike the front, the rear of the the three media player head units are well organised and feature everything you would expect from a modern media streamer:

- 10/100Mbit Ethernet Port
- Two (rear) USB ports
- Composite Connections
- Component Connections
- HDMI port
- eSATA port
- TOSLINK Optical Out port
- Mains Power Switch
- Dedicated Bus connector (for future external devices)
- 12V DC IN

Additionally, the H1 and D1 feature a USB B (slave) port for direct connection to a computer.

All three head units feature identically located (and sized) vents on the top and the entire Smart Series feature silver, rubber footed, feet. It might seem trivial but in our experience, the amount of effort that has been put into a component's feet tends to be a fairly good indicator of its overall attention to quality.

While the 142mm x 276mm x 65mm dimensions (including legs) of the Smart units look great, there's been a lot more thought behind it than meets the eye. HDi Dune sells special fastening brackets that allows three units (or just two) to be joined horizontally to form one super unit. And it's no accident that the three unit super unit just so happens to be about the size of a bonafide Hi-Fi component. Clever.

dune_brackets_01.jpgWhile both the two and three unit brackets worked well enough, we're not entirely sold on them from an aesthetic or even practical point of view. We're sure someone out there will appreciate the option - and good on Dune for providing it - but we reckon a good ol' vertical stack of Smart units is probably the way to go, aesthetically at least.
 

dune_brackets_04.jpg     dune_brackets_05.jpgIronically, where the flashy rendered BD Prime 3.0 images created somewhat of a visual let down upon unboxing, the Smart series actually look *better* in real life than in their cleaned up marketing images!
 

dune_brackets_02.jpg     dune_brackets_03.jpgThe BE and HE extensions completely match the design of their media player cousins - right down to the grey BE/HE labels in the top right corner. Connecting a BE unit to either a Smart D1 or Smart H1 ins